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Echoes – Week 28 (Mar 29, 2010)

posted by Matt Ward on Mar 29, 2010.

Echoes: Week 28 – Mar 29 2010. This is the twenty eighth edition of my weekly Echoes posts, in which I feature some of the best work that I have found on the web. Features one logo, one piece of art, one tutorial and one website.

Well, life is pretty much back to normal. My wife got back from Haiti last week safe and sound, so we’re back to two parent mode, which makes my life a whole lot easier – at least in one regard. Of course, life always seems to trade one type of busyness for another, as I have two different websites launching this week.

The first is a complete redesign for Highland Marketing, where I am the Creative Director and have been working diligently at building and releasing a new design for the site. It launched today! The point was to create something simpler and more streamlined than the old site, which was a bit rigid and boxy. Please feel free to check the site out and let me know your thoughts. And if you’re doing any direct mail and we can be of service, don’t hesitate to hit me up!

The other site should be launching later this week, and is a freelance client project built on a custom, hand coded WordPress theme. It’s a pretty cool site, and I’ll be glad when it’s up.

Anyhow, on to this week’s Echoes!

Logo – Pink Flamingo Farm

I came across this week’s logo over on Logo of the Day, and it’s just another awesome example of interesting and clever execution – this time by means of the interaction between two distinct animal shapes.

Pink Flamingo Farm

Pink Flamingo Farm

I’m not certain that I would give the name “Pink Flamingo” to a farm that focuses on breeding horses – it just seems to beg for confusion – and from the name itself, it might seem like a great challenge to come up with a design that is both interesting and meaningful. The designers deserve credit on this one, though, for devising something really interesting. Just like last week’s equestrian themed logo, this one also involves a horse’s head, except this time, the horse is actually comprised out of negative space, and the outer line of its head forms the inner line of a flamingo!

The interplay here is both clever and intriguing, as I always find these kinds of logos really interesting. I would love to see the rough work for this one, and trace the development of the concept. Was this a concept that came to the design relatively quickly, or did they produce dozens and dozens of sketches before finally devising this concept? That’s always an interesting question to ask.

Art – Final Sleep

This week’s artwork is a beautiful watercolour painting of a beautiful and dream-like scene. What I find truly remarkable, though is the amazing level of detail in the painting itself.

Final Sleep

Final Sleep

In this context, there is probably not a lot that I can or would say about the narrative of the piece itself. There is a woman and a dragon and some other magical looking creatures, all of which could probably be imbued with some sort of story and meaning. That’s beyond the scope of any Echoes post, though, so I will won’t get into it.

I would, however, like to underscore the magnificence of the style. Watercolour seems to have been a reasonably popular trend in some recent design, and watercolour Photoshop brushes remain a much sought after resource. There is nothing, however, that can really compare to an actual watercolour painting. Despite the fact that the colours are often somewhat washed out, there frequently seems to be a strong sense of energy in this genre of painting, which I think stems from the very organic appearance of wet paint hitting paper. It’s probably my favorite form of traditional painting!

I am also astounded that level of detail in this painting. It’s difficult to see here, but there are links to detailed closeups from the deviantArt page, in which you can really see the the extensive detail that exists in this one. It’s really amazing – especially since it is done with watercolour, which can be a very finicky and somewhat unforgiving medium. Because the paint always shows through, it can sometimes be difficult to fix mistakes. So, at least for me, the seemingly flawless execution of this one is truly to be admired!

Tutorial – How To Create a Stylish Navigation Bar In Adobe Fireworks

I do nearly all of my graphics in either Photoshop or Illustrator. For most web elements other than icons, I tend to focus on the Photoshop side of things. Today’s tutorial, though, is all about creating a cool web element in Fireworks.

 How To Create a Stylish Navigation Bar In Adobe Fireworks

How To Create a Stylish Navigation Bar In Adobe Fireworks

There are a couple of interesting things about this tutorial. On one hand, it really shows how easy it is to make these kinds of graphics in Fireworks, which has been specifically engineered with the web in mind. Whereas Photoshop is a vastly powerful image editing package, with capabilities that far exceed what is typically needed for creating basic web graphics. Fireworks, on the other hand, is specifically created for this process. From what I’ve seen, this basically means that you have a more focused set of tools that can potentially help you do your job more efficiently (I’ve also read that Fireworks actually offers better compression than Photoshop).

That being said, though, don’t make the assumption that Fireworks is actually a stripped down version of Photoshop (that’s called Elements). There are some familiar tools and palettes, but it’s a completely different program, with its own way of doing things. I played around with it a bit, and will admit to feeling a bit lost. It’s kind of like the first time you get into a completely new car – you have a basic idea of how to make it work, but it still feels a bit strange and foreign, and you know it will take some time for you to really get to know where everything is.

Still, I this is still a great tutorial, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to give Fireworks a shot.

Website – Digital Puffin

This week, I received a request on Twitter to have a look at the redesign page for Digital Puffin, a two-man design firm based out California. I always enjoy seeing the web work of creative professionals, so I had a look and decided to feature the site here.

Digital Puffin

Digital Puffin

There are a few things that I really like about the site. I’ll start with the mascot design – of a puffin, of course – which is both simple and memorable and relates very well to the brand. I also really like the minimalism of the site, which features a different coloured background for each sub-page, along with very subtle radial gradients, watermarked with the a diagonal “dp”. The site also features some nicely styled typography, which helps complete the overall design.

It also has a really cool navigational animation effect, wherein every time you click the menu to move to a different page, the content quickly fades out. Then, in similar fashion content for the next page fades in after it loads. It’s a subtle effect, but it adds a nice flair to the site. It does present a navigational problem, though, in the use of the back button. Every time I click the back button, the previous page loads in its last state – namely with the content faded out. All that I see is a blank, coloured screen. Just seems like a minor navigational bug to me – I’m sure it will be ironed out soon.

One other area that I think could be improved is the menu system. It exists as a series of coloured bars down the side of the page, with each bar sliding out on a hover event, to reveal the menu choice. It’s a really cool little effect, but may not be the most intuitive. Users might not know where the menu is, assuming that the coloured bars are just part of the background. Also, unless you’ve been to the site before, having to hover over every option until you find what you’re looking for could be a bit frustrating for the user. I think that using small but meaningful icons could go a long way in helping to smooth out these potential usability issues.

Overall, though, it’s a really great site.

Well that’s it for this week’s Echoes. Which ones were your favorites? As always, if you know of any designs, tutorials or art that merits being included in a future post, feel free to let me know about it!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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